Hannity rips NYT columnist for linking him to COVID-19 death

Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityBiden's safe-space CNN town hall attracts small audience, as poll numbers plummet Meghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Biden giving stiff-arm to press interviews MORE is ripping The New York Times for a column that linked his coverage of the coronavirus crisis to a New York man's death, saying the paper "pretty much all but accused yours truly of murder."

The Big City column was written by Ginia Bellafante. It concerned a Brooklyn bar owner named Joe Joyce who took a cruise to Spain that began on March 1, and later contracted the coronavirus. Joyce, 74, died on April 9. 

It is not clear that Joyce contracted the coronavirus when he was in Spain, but Joyce's daughter Kirsten Midler told Bellafante that her father watched Fox News and believed the coronavirus was under control. 

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Bellafante then quoted Hannity, writing that he "went on air proclaiming that he didn’t like the way that the American people were getting scared 'unnecessarily.' He saw it all, he said, 'as like, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.'"

Hannity said Bellafante's column was an unfair "smear."

“In order to smear yours truly, they literally, this woman [Bellafante] exploited a man’s tragic death. She willingly, maliciously, purposefully, took something I said completely out of context," he added.

He also said the remarks Bellanfante used in her column were from March 9, after Joyce started his cruise, and that they were taken out of context. 

"Those are the remarks she referred to in her slanderous piece. That is slander. That is libel," Hannity charged.

“Politicizing a tragedy, this New York Times so-called writer, reporter, whatever she is, has added to the pain and suffering of a family that deserves better. This was all done to vilify this program and this channel,” he added.

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The first coronavirus death in the U.S. was recorded in Washington state on Feb. 29, which was one day before New York's first reported case of the virus. 

Hannity also criticized Bellafante for underplaying the virus in a tweet she sent in late February.

“I fundamentally don’t understand the panic: incidence of the disease is declining in China. Virus is not deadly in vast majority of cases. Production and so on will slow down and will obviously rebound," Bellafante tweeted to her followers on Feb. 27.

A New York Times spokesperson told The Hill in an email statement that "the column accurately and sympathetically told the story of Joe Joyce's life," while adding that "no fact in the column has been challenged."

"In response to Hannity's claims about editing, the column was updated after its initial publication to include a statement from Fox News. No other edits were made," the statement added. 

Updated at 3:19 p.m.